Tribunals must take childcare disparities into account in sex discrimination cases, Judge rules

The decision came after a nurse was sacked because she needed predictable hours to look after her disabled children.

25 Jun 2021| News

A landmark Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) ruling has confirmed that gender disparities around childcare burdens must be taken in account by the judiciary when deciding on sex discrimination cases.

The decision related to a case brought by Gemma Dobson, who was sacked from her job as a nurse at North Cumbria integrated NHS foundation trust in 2016 because her need to look after her three children – two of whom are disabled – meant she could not work at weekends.

Dobson claimed for unfair dismissal and indirect sex discrimination, but initially lost her case at an Employment Tribunal. Mr Justice Choudhury of the EAT has now clarified that a lack of flexibility around childcare can be considered a sex discrimination issue.

The decision of the judge and his panel read: “Whilst things might have progressed somewhat in that men do now bear a greater proportion of childcaring responsibilities than they did decades ago, the position is still far from equal.”

It continued: “The assumptions made and relied upon [by the appellant] … are still very much supported by the evidence presented to us of current disparities between men and women in relation to the burden of childcare.”

Slater and Gordon employment lawyer, Doreen Reeves, who acted for Dobson, described the win as a “landmark decision” that “gives a clear warning, working mothers with caring responsibilities should not be penalised if they are not able to work flexibly to meet business needs or demands of a service”.